New GoggleWorks Director Brings Musical Background

On Saturday night, Phil Walz, executive director of the Greater Akron Musical Association Inc., worked through a major symphony concert, then handed over his keys.  On Sunday, he packed his truck and drove to Pennsylvania.

Today, he begins work as the new executive director of the eight-year-old GoggleWorks Center for the Arts, Second and Washington streets.

“I see the opportunity to work in Reading as a real honor,” said Walz, 54.  “The GoggleWorks’ mission ‘to nurture the arts, foster creativity, promote education, and enrich the community’ is simple yet inspiring.”

He replaces Diane LaBelle, who had overseen the 2004 transformation of a vacant, four-story factory that once made safety equipment into a series of artists’ studios and public spaces, then led its operation for six years.  She left in June 2010.

Read more: http://readingeagle.com/article.aspx?id=420979

GoggleWorks Open-Air Studio Livens Up 400 Block Of Penn

The GoggleWorks Center for the Arts brought the arts downtown Wednesday with painters, potters, sculptors and more.

Eighteen artists came to the center’s first open-air studio in the 400 block of Penn Street.

Read more: http://readingeagle.com/article.aspx?id=420121

Penn Square Consultants Get An Earful

Editor’s note:  Taking care of the root problem needs happen…crime and blight need to be addressed before cosmetics can lure people downtown.  Cleaning up the downtown is necessary but business owners and shoppers need to feel safe above all else.  Without the root problem being addressed, it’s another case of putting lipstick on a pig.

The consultants designing Downtown 20/20 – what Penn Square should look like to attract more out-of-towners – say they’ve gotten an earful of criticism and suggestions at three recent public hearings, and have tweaked the plans to accommodate some comments.

But they also got an earful this week from City Council members, who said that although they liked the ideas, nothing will happen until the city begins resolving Penn Square’s larger issues.

“Nobody wants to go downtown with all the drunks sitting around,” Councilwoman Donna Reed said at a work session with the 20/20 steering committee and the consultants. “It’s just an uncomfortable, disgusting place to walk.”

She said the Downtown Improvement District said its biggest challenge is dealing with public drunkenness, and the city needs to start enforcing its loitering laws and getting rid of the reeking trash containers on North Fourth Street.

Read more: http://readingeagle.com/Article.aspx?id=410399

Hell’s Kitchen Finalist Takes Top Job At Reading’s The Peanut Bar Restaurant

Chef Andrea Heinly, best known as Chef Andrea, one of 16 contestants from season five of “Hell’s Kitchen,” a popular reality TV show, is the new executive chef at Jimmie Kramer’s The Peanut Bar Restaurant.

Heinly, 35, of Reading came in third on the Fox network show.

Michael J. Leifer, president and CEO of Jimmie Kramer’s, said it’s a big deal for the Peanut Bar because Heinly has attained a bit of celebrity status.

Although taped in Los Angeles in November 2007, season five aired from Jan. 29, 2009, until May 14, 2009.

Read more: http://readingeagle.com/article.aspx?id=398972

Treasure Hunters Take Over Downtown Reading

Downtown Reading, Pennsylvania; with Berks Cou...

Downtown Reading, Pennsylvania; with Berks County courthouse on left; July 2007 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Fourteen teams with names like The Mad House, Lady Berks and The Lucky Stars did a fast-walking search for treasure up and down Penn Street on Saturday afternoon, looking through stores, talking to total strangers and peering into restaurants.

The organizers, the Downtown Improvement District, hoped the participants would find that Penn Street itself is the treasure.

The is DID’s second year for the Downtown Reading Treasure Hunt, and with 87 people on the teams, including six groups returning from last year, there were double the participants.

“Our goal is to introduce people to downtown Reading who would not normally come down here,” said Charles R. Broad, DID executive director. “People get amazed at the kind of things they find here.”

Read more: http://readingeagle.com/article.aspx?id=384488

Development Group To Buy Abraham Lincoln Hotel Garage

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Berks County

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Berks County (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The Reading Parking Authority Board agreed Wednesday to sell the parking garage at The Abraham Lincoln hotel to Alan Shuman Development Group, Reading, for $1.05 million.

Authority Executive Director Lawrence H. Lee said the board wanted to sell the garage at North Fifth and Washington streets to whoever was purchasing the hotel, for which the development group has an agreement of sale.

Details on the hotel purchase were not available.

Read more: http://readingeagle.com/article.aspx?id=382186

Berks County Services Center Floods Over The Weekend

Reading's Pagoda seen from Skyline Drive

Image via Wikipedia

On top of chunks falling off the façade and fluids leaking into the underground parking garage, over the weekend there was a flood on the sixth floor of the Berks County Services Center building that also damaged the fourth and fifth floors.  A broken water valve was the culprit.  Damage is estimated at half a million dollars.  $100,000 went specifically for the cleanup and $400,000 for the renovations the restore the building back to working order.

There are several hundred valves in the building that will be inspected after this disaster to hopefully avoid any repeats.  Good idea!

Fortunately, insurance will pay all but $50,000 of the damage.

Reading Skyscraper Falling Apart!

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Berks County

Image via Wikipedia

The not quite 20-year-old Berks County General Services building is having some major structural problems.  The 16-story building (Reading’s second tallest) is either in front of or behind, depending on your perspective, the 19-story Berks County Courthouse (tallest building in Reading).

Pieces of the facade have fallen off the building and there are “fluids” leaking on parked cars and damaging them in the four-level underground parking garage.  Evidently there were problems with the roof  installation back in 1992 that are creating these issues.

There are two options to fix the problem.  Close the parking garage for 4-5 months, bite the bullet and get it done, or make repairs in stages and the project will take 4-5 years.  The first option would be cheaper.

It is truly amazing that a building this new is having significant problems.  Let’s hope the situation gets immediate action before something worse happens!